9 Jul 2016

Do or die for Hurricanes

9:20 pm on 9 July 2016

For the Hurricanes and Waratahs, sudden death has come two weeks early in their Super Rugby season with their clash in Sydney on Saturday likely to finalise the top eight playoff-bound sides.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said the side had been through a "brutal" review session.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said the side had been through a "brutal" review session. Photo: Photosport

Both sides are still in the hunt for a quarter-final berth, with the Hurricanes sitting fourth in the Australasian group while the Sydney-based 2014 champions are sixth, just outside the final spot for the playoffs.

The Waratahs have 39 points, the same as the Australian conference-leading ACT Brumbies, and while a bonus point victory over the Hurricanes would give them the best chance of making the postseason, lock Will Skelton said any win will do.

"We've got to win games before you talk about bonus points," he told reporters in Sydney this week. "It's not a place we like being in, but we're trying to control our own destiny here.

"That's by winning and trying to win comfortably (and) we know if we play our attacking footy, they'll come."

The Hurricanes, on 44 points, are looking to be equally as aggressive in the clash, with coach Chris Boyd suggesting his team need at least 50 to be sure of a quarter-final berth.

That would mean taking six points from their final two games against the Waratahs and Canterbury Crusaders, who are second in the New Zealand conference on 45 points. The Waikato Chiefs lead on 46 points.

"They're desperate, we're as keen as," Boyd said of the clash against the Waratahs. "It's fairly obvious the points table is very tight in the New Zealand conference.

"I think a lot of teams know every point will be important from here on."

The importance of those points is clear in New Zealand, which is widely considered the most competitive of the four Super Rugby groups.

Local media and players have suggested the lopsided nature of the groupings has contributed to an unfair weighting towards the South African sides.

The table-topping Lions (47) have what is considered an easier schedule having not travelled out of South Africa for the last 10 rounds of matches, while five of their 15 games are against the three expansion sides.

They meet the Kings for the second time this season on Friday and have an added incentive to seal top spot in the African group with a bonus-point victory in Johannesburg.

Johann Ackermann's team have to travel to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares in the final week, and if they have already sealed top spot could leave some of their players at home to refresh for the quarter-finals.

The Jaguares, who have failed to adapt to the rigour of the competition in their debut season, hampered the Bulls' (32) push for the playoffs last week and could still affect the post-season picture when they host the Highlanders on Saturday.

"They're a good unit and they played well against the Bulls," Highlanders assistant coach Scott McLeod told Fairfax Media.

"Their set piece was outstanding and they play a really fast game so we know where the challenges are."